China is perhaps one of the Western traveller’s last frontiers. Visiting the fascinating country certainly comes with its difficulties (see: language barrier, difficult visa laws, etc.), but that’s not to say that one of the world’s largest economies can’t keep up with what’s hot in travel trends. Across the country, stylish and luxurious hotels have taken their places in booming cities and tiny villages. From trend-setting to design-forward, here are the hotels that you want to be seen in in China.
In the UNESCO World Heritage city of Lijiang, also known as the “Venice of the Orient” in Yunnan Province’s highlands, Banyan Tree Lijiang basks in postcard-perfect views of the famous Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and boasts villas and pagodas designed with influence from local indigenous Naxi architecture. Many villas feature panoramic mountain views, private gardens and swimming pools, and each guest room is decorated deep red and gold tones with local art under that iconic, tip-tilted, tiled roof. The hotel’s award-winning spa offers treatments using local ingredients like pearl barley, red rice, ginseng and green tea.
This boutique is plotted right in the center of the capital city’s trendy 798 Art District, and the 30 uniquely decorated rooms and suites here definitely pick up on that sense of place. While the hotel’s common spaces are muted in decor and colour, guest rooms boast vibrant traditional and contemporary art and a modern take on historic Ming Dynasty design elements. Rooms feature luxury amenities like heated floors and pillow menus, and the top-of-the-line Grace Suite boasts a white marble bathroom and floor to ceiling artwork. The hotel’s Yi House restaurant serves up a Mediterranean-Asian cuisine with a focus on seafood, and a famous five-course champagne brunch at the weekends.
Self-billed as Shanghai’s “first luxury urban resort,” the PuLi is the hotel of our Asian dreams. In the resort’s over 200 rooms and suites, traditional “old world charm” meets modern amenities like Bose music systems, Nespresso coffee machines, rain showers, window-side soaking tubs and Shanghai skyline views. The design-focused hotel features a renowned Anantara Spa which offers ancient therapies from Thailand and India and a list of tea-inspired therapies using local green, white and chrysanthemum teas. The spa is located in the hotel’s Health Club, which also includes a sauna, steam room, experiential showers and a 25-metre pool. Australian chef Michael Wilson of Melbourne’s Cutler & Co. helms PuLi’s Jing’An restaurant, where a travel-influenced menu features local ingredients and classic French influences.
The retreat-chic Aman group was approached to manage this tea-field-surrounded traditional village property near the city of Hangzhou, and the fit couldn’t be better. Aman has carefully maintained and developed the 47 stone courtyard dwellings – some over 100 years old – using traditional methods and materials. Roofs are made from clay tiles, walls are still made of brick and earth and floors are stone in the guest rooms and facilities, which include a cigar room, library and spa compound. No two accommodations are decorated in the same manner, but each feature fine calligraphy art and amenities like heated floors and private massage rooms. The Aman Spa is tucked into a nearby bamboo grove and offers traditional reflexology treatments, Tai Chi, yoga, and treatments inspired by seasonal local plants. A bathhouse features circular wooden soaking tubs and steam rooms.
Amongst 12 acres of tropical gardens on Hainan Island in the South China Sea, the Mandarin Oriental Sanya offers a luxurious refuge in one of the island’s most popular tourist towns. The resort features three outdoor pools, a private beach with a coral reef perfect for snorkeling, tennis courts, tai chi and qi gong sessions and spacious oceanfront villas with private plunge or infinity pools. At the resort’s beachfront restaurant – Fresh – guests can enjoy modern Australian cuisine with a focus on local seafood, while other restaurants offer Cantonese, Western, noodles, and over 100 varieties of tea. Nightlife includes a cocktail bar and a cigar and whisky salon – both are perfect for a drink after a day spent lounging in an outdoor tub or steam shower at the hotel’s spa, which is licensed in Traditional Chinese Medicine and offers Chinese therapies like cupping and acupuncture.
This design focused space is cloaked in an emerald green glass exterior, and expansive, high-ceilinged spaces and lots of natural light characterize its interior – basically, the Opposite House is a design-junkie’s dream. The hotel features 98 studio-style rooms and a two-floor penthouse. All rooms have open plan designs to evoke loft living – rooms have floor to ceiling windows, mood lighting, dining areas, balconies, Egyptian cotton linens and spa-inspired bathrooms with oak soaking tubs and rain showers. Facilities include a striking 22-metre stainless steel swimming pool and a state-of-the-art gym, and the hotel’s Jing Yaa Tang restaurant is quickly becoming famous across the city for its focus on Beijing’s iconic roast duck.
The PuYu hotel in Wuhan strikes a careful balance between modernity and elements of Wuhanese tradition. Rooms and suites each feature minimalistic design – storage and technology is strategically hidden to streamline and simplify the in-room atmosphere as much as possible. Accommodations are decorated with jade, bronze and ceramic pieces and feature furnishings like window-side daybeds, waterfall showers and stone bathtubs, and some even come complete with 24-hour butler service. The hotel’s meal-time offerings include a family-style Italian restaurant, the Jade Garden Chinese restaurant and the Long Bar lounge with a menu of cocktails, dumplings and noodles. But no space is hotter than the hotel’s WaiTan rooftop bar, which boasts panoramic views and a see-and-be-seen vibe.